Amer­i­cans want to ex­er­cise their rights — rea­son­ably

The Covington News - - THE SECOND OPINION - To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit cre­ators.com.

As Amer­i­cans, we tend to be­lieve we have the right to do what­ever we want, so long as it doesn’t in­ter­fere with the rights of oth­ers.

But some­times the lines get a lit­tle blurry.

For ex­am­ple, what hap­pens if the owner of a bar in a col­lege town wants to avoid some of the prob­lems that come with col­lege drink­ing? Should the bar owner be al­lowed to set a rule so that only those 25 and older are al­lowed in his bar?

Or since 21-yearolds can legally drink, should the bar owner be forced to ad­mit any­one who is 21 and older?

Just over half (53 per­cent) of all Amer­i­cans say the bar owner should be al­lowed to set a 25-year-old age limit. About one out of three dis­agree.

This is con­sis­tent with a long­stand­ing tra­di­tion in Amer­ica that the owner of a house gets to write the house rules.

It builds upon an old English at­ti­tude em­braced in com­mon law that a man’s home is his cas­tle. The same pub­lic at­ti­tudes pre­vail in a sit­u­a­tion where the owner of a Brook­lyn deli re­quires that pa­trons dress mod­estly.

Sixty-eight per­cent be­lieve the owner has the right to im­pose such a rule, but New York City of­fi­cials dis­agree.

The own­ers are Or­tho­dox Jews, and the city views their ac­tion as re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Most Amer­i­cans also think it’s OK for real-es­tate de­vel­op­ers to re­strict some properties to peo­ple ages 55 and above, or to let bars of­fer half-price drinks to women dur­ing happy hour.

Shift­ing gears, some col­leges have rules re­quir­ing that lead­er­ship in cam­pus or­ga­ni­za­tions be open to any­one. But by a 2-to-1 mar­gin, Amer­i­cans dis­agree.

A solid ma­jor­ity be­lieves Chris­tian cam­pus or­ga­ni­za­tions should be al­lowed to se­lect only Chris­tian lead­ers.

A sim­i­lar num­ber be­lieve that gay and les­bian groups should be al­lowed to se­lect only lead­ers who sup­port equal rights for gay and les­bian Amer­i­cans.

That sounds like com­mon sense, but it’s been the source of le­gal ac­tion in re­cent years.

That’s be­cause in the cases men­tioned, some­body’s rights are tech­ni­cally be­ing vi­o­lated by the de­ci­sions of some­one else.

A 54-year-old who wants to buy a home in a re­stricted de­vel­op­ment is de­nied the op­por­tu­nity.

Those who don’t want to dress mod­estly are de­nied the chance to pa­tron­ize a deli.

An athe­ist who wants to lead a Chris­tian or­ga­ni­za­tion is banned from do­ing so.

There are some who be­lieve that the rights of the con­sumer must tri­umph absolutely over the rights of the busi­ness owner.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union holds this view. It be­lieves that if you open your doors to serve the pub­lic in any way, you for­feit all right to set terms and con­di­tions on whom you will serve.

There are oth­ers who hold that if some­one owns a busi­ness, the owner can do what­ever he or she wants.

While this sounds right to most Amer­i­cans, it can lead to prob­lems if car­ried to an ex­treme.

Hardly any­body, for ex­am­ple, be­lieves that a restau­rant should be al­lowed to deny ser­vice to some­one sim­ply be­cause he or she is black.

At the end of the day, most Amer­i­cans don’t be­lieve that ei­ther con­sumers or busi­ness own­ers have ab­so­lute rights.

They be­lieve busi­ness own­ers can es­tab­lish rea­son­able re­stric­tions on whom they will serve, and con­sumers al­ways have the right to take their busi­ness else­where.

SCOTT RAS­MUSSEN

COLUM­NIST

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